X-Files Flashback: ‘Sein und Zeit’

Season 7, Episode 10
Director: Michael Watkins
Writer: Chris Carter, Frank Spotnitz

The X-Files went long with the whereabouts of Samantha Mulder over its seven seasons. The show tortured Fox Mulder by unveiling her on multiple occasions, none of which were anchored in reality. “Samantha” was an alien-human hybrid. “Samantha” was a dream. “Samantha” was real but disappeared again. Then, there was the brief tease during “Paper Hearts” that Samantha was murdered as a child by a roving child murderer. None of this proved true, and Mulder continued to search, to be seemingly eternally haunted by her absence. With “Sein und Zeit,” the series attempts to move toward closure on the matter with an unsettling (for a parent) episode that ends all-too abruptly.

The episode opens with a woman writing some sort of ransom note while a child sleeps in another room. The little girl’s father checks on her and momentarily believes her to be dead. When he leaves the room, the door slams shut, and, by the time he can open it, the girl is missing. Mulder hears of the case and asks to be assigned to it despite A.D. Skinner’s wishes. Clearly equating the missing girl to the disappearance of his sister years ago, Mulder goes down a rabbit hole of tentative connections and imprisoned mothers until he receives word that his mother has died. Teena Mulder committed suicide after burning pictures of Samantha, and Mulder believes she had additional information on the disappearance but was murdered for it. Scully’s autopsy reveals that she had a terminal illness and very clearly killed herself.

The conclusion of the episode has Mulder begging off the missing child case as he is not emotionally sound enough to handle it. As Scully and Skinner drive him to the airport, they stumble upon a Santa park near California State Route 74. This is significant because a) the missing girl’s mother claimed to have seen her daughter’s ghost whisper “74” to her and b) the ransom notes strangely referenced “Santa Claus.” Upon investigation, the three agents chase the park’s owner into a clearing where he is surrounded by child graves.

“Sein und Zeit” is a more emotional outing for Mulder than we’re accustomed. The combination of the haunted search for his sister and the death of his mother drives him into a conspiratorial frenzy that kind of rivals anything else we’ve seen in the series. He’s grasping at straws at literally every turn, and, this time, we realize that’s all it is. The problem with his journey is that it isn’t taken deeply enough. It’s not fully explored as much as perhaps it should have been given Mulder’s history of clinging to his mother through the series, particularly in “Talitha Cumi.”

Yet, “Sein und Zeit” combines her death in with the child disappearance story line, and it all feels overstuffed. Nothing is given the opportunity to breathe sufficiently. And we haven’t fully explored the Samantha situation yet. The final scene of the dozens of child graves is a chilling one, and it concluded the episode on a chilling note. It doesn’t, though, feel logically related to the Teena Mulder story. One of these things is not like the other.

And we’re not even talking about Santa Claus right now.

Published by Clarence Moye

Clarence firmly believes there is no such thing as too much TV or film in one's life. He welcomes comments, criticisms, and condemnations on Twitter or on the web site. Just don't expect him to like you for it.